Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Obligatory New Year's Post




My new year's resolution is to be a llama.

Let me explain.






















A couple days ago Mom and I were shopping for little on-sale Christmassy things at Target, and we were looking through the wrapping paper section when I saw something that stopped me in my tracks.

Llama wrapping paper.

We decided to buy it, and as we were trekking to the register Mom pointed out "You know this is really ugly, right?" to which I pointed out that attractiveness doesn't matter; it's llama wrapping paper.

Behold:

Llamas.

Llamas.

LLAMAS.

Fast forward to that evening. I'm sitting at adoration and going over the readings for January 1, 2017, the feast of Mary, Mother of God.

The first reading is from Numbers:

The LORD said to Moses: "Speak to Aaron and his sons and tell them: This is how you shall bless the Israelites. Say to them:
The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!
So shall they invoke my name upon the Israelites, and I will bless them."
What does it mean for God to "keep" someone?

The first thing I think of when I hear the word "keep" is someone going shopping and thinking Oh, that [insert word here] looks cool; I think I'll keep it.

And then it hit me:

Llama wrapping paper is weird and unusual and kind of ugly depending on how you look at it. But I saw it among all the other wrapping paper tubes and said, "Let's keep it!"

Kind of like God making me and being like, "Wow, she turned out weird. But she's a keeper."

So my motivational new year's line for you is we are all llama wrapping paper.

And that's awesome.










Monday, December 26, 2016

God Bless Us, Every One!



(I read the title in my brother's voice because he loves making fun of the squeaky delivery that every actor uses for this line. Thanks bro.)

Merry, merry Christmas!

It's so easy to forget that Christmas lasts for twelve days (at least in the Catholic calendar) because it seems that the decorations start going down at 11:59 on Christmas Eve. And the Christmas music
stops playing too, which makes it difficult. So to remind myself, merry Christmas again, everyone!

This post isn't going anywhere in particular, I just felt like I should post after reading through a lot of Chrismassy, NaNoWriMo-y blog posts and realizing that I really want a Christmas post on my blog. A gorgeous, streamlined setup like so many of the blogs I've been reading would be really nice too, but as of yet I barely know how to insert my header, so baby steps.

Christmas morning was lovely. We had gone to the vigil mass the previous night so I got to sleep in until about 9:30, which felt amazing (no, I'm not one of those people who must get up early for the full Yuletide experience), and then my family ate scones and opened stockings and presents and more stockings (because my brother and sister-in-law came over at that point), and we ate a lot of potatoes and Egg's Benedict for brunch, then opened more presents and played a new card game (Iota--it's really confusing but intriguing) and then it was just Mom and Dad and I at home and we crashed.

It was the Christmas-afternoon-crash, which is one of my favorite times of the year. The time when the smells of white-chocolate-craisin scones and eggs and potatoes and hollandaise sauce till permeate the house, and we all play with our new gadgets and then grab the occasional snack from Christmas Eve dinner. It's calming and thrilling and nostalgic and wonderful.

During this time I read through Act 1 of Hamilton: the Revolution--a gift from my parents.


Speaking of which, there was definitely a present-y theme going on this year. Behold:

The libretto of the play, along with the story of how it made it to
Broadway and the White House


A random picture of the bookmark that I'm using with it, which I  made with MJ--
the BBC version of Sherlock's Reichenbach Fall (Idea found on Pinterest, of course.)

Technically I got this for Dad, but gifts go both ways. Hehe.


Yes, that is an Alexander Hamilton bobblehead. Too big for my car's dash, but still amazing.
He's on the piano right now, inspiring me.

Also, I now have a t-shirt that says "Talk less, smile more," and another that says "I had a life until I started listening to Hamilton," which is painfully accurate.

There were many other wonderful gifts which I will not name here, for sake of brevity and finger energy. Suffice to say, thank you to everyone.

***

Some other things that have been happening

I forced MJ and her sister to watch my favorite Christmas movie: Nativity! 

Yes, the exclamation point is in the title. It's that kind of movie.

In summary, Martin Freeman is the main character and he gets into a lot of trouble when he tries to make a musical production of the Nativity with cute British schoolchildren. It's adorable. The whole movie gives me warm fuzzies in my heart. (Some questionable dance moves and one mild swear word are in there, so beware. Otherwise it's perfect.)

Look and be amazed:





Martin Freeman makes me so happy. 😍

Also, I've been thinking about college studies, and I've tentatively decided on music as a minor and English as a major. We'll see how that idea stands the test of time.

Also, skating!!! I went skating with Mom and my aunt when she was in town, and was amazed at how big the outside is. Seriously, I hadn't done something outside in a long, long time. I need to get out more.  xD

***

Some Plans for the Near Future

Watching La La Land with Mom. It just came out in select theaters, and it's a musical starring Emma Stone. A musical, guys! With real actors! I don't think I've ever seen a musical come out in theaters that isn't animated. So that's exciting.

Watching the new Doctor Who Christmas special, for obvious reasons.

Figuring out my classes for next semester.

Reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

Building my thumb callous (it's a cello thing).

Finishing BBC's Merlin.

Hanging out with friends.

Celebrating for the next week+ of the Christmas season! Yeehaw!

And...yep, that's pretty much it. Merry Christmas!



How was your Christmas? Have you gotten to do any winter-y activities yet?

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Fault in Our Stars Review (Spoiler-Free)



This book is depressing.

Not the vague sort of depressing that makes you shrug and forget about it later, but the kind of depressing that makes you cry so often that towards the end of the book you stop noticing the tears rolling down your face.

Then again, I'm a teenage girl who read it straight through from 10 pm to 1:30 am, so I suppose crying is to be expected.

This book is just so...ugh, I can't figure out how to describe it. The first thing that comes to mind is it's really, really good. The second thing that comes to mind is it's really, really depressing.

I'll start with the really, really good aspect. Let's use headings for this bit. Headings are cool.


***


Why The Fault in Our Stars is Really, Really Good

1. Writing style

There was something on almost every page that gave me chills. John Green puts ordinary things in such delicious ways. For example: 

"I cut a glance to him, and his eyes were still on me. It occurred to me why they call it eye contact."

"His every syllable flirted." 

"I enjoy looking at beautiful people, and I decided a while ago not to deny myself the simpler pleasures of existence."

"Kaitlyn never wore open-toed shoes on account of how she hated her feet because she felt her second toes were too long, as if the second toe was a window into the soul or something."

"You could hear the wind in the leaves, and on that wind traveled the screams of the kids on the playground in the distance, the little kids figuring out how to be alive, how to navigate a world that was not built for them by navigating a playground that was."

"I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once."

2. Point of View

I suppose this could fall under writing style, but it deserves a section to itself. Green chose a first person POV, and as an aspiring writer I was amazed (and a little jealous) at how well he included Hazel's thoughts and opinions so I forgot I was reading a book and became immersed in Hazel's experiences. (All of the above quotes are from Hazel's narration, except for the "beautiful people" one, which is a piece of dialogue.)

Also, Hazel's sarcastic narration made me laugh out loud. A lot. *ignores the fact that I was sleep-deprived while reading it*

3. Questions

Yes, this book is technically a romance, but it seems that the main point of it is to examine the "problem of pain," as C.S. Lewis put it. It's basically a bunch of existential crises strung together, as the main characters deal with the excruciating pain, humiliation, and death that arise from terminal illness. 

It examines questions such as "Why are we here?", "Is life worth it?", and "What happens after death?". But what's cool about it is it examines these questions from the point of view of modern teenagers. This made it relatable and it revealed to my sheltered self what a lot of modern non-religious youth are struggling with.

If that doesn't sound fun to read, then this book is not for you. 

***


Why The Fault in Our Stars Is Really, Really Depressing

1. Answers

In this story there are a lot of questions, but there are no answers. Hazel shoots down all the usual explanations of pain, questioning God's existence and denying typical expressions about pain having some sort of point such as showing us the joy of life. 

That's the main reason that I'm still feeling down after finishing this book: a lot of people probably think like Hazel. And it makes me sad that people live with such a nihilistic view of life: that we're just random conglomerations of atoms and the best thing we can do is "notice the universe." 

It's like a Douglas Adams book, but without the humor. 

2. Cancer

I've never been close to anyone suffering from cancer, so before I read this book I didn't realize how much suffering cancer patients go through. Green goes into excruciating detail with the treatments and the humiliation that the main characters have to deal with. It would be okay if it was a fantasy story but it's just really sad to read about this stuff knowing that all of it is real and that people have to endure that kind of suffering now. 

It puts my own little struggles into perspective.

3. I can't think of a third one. So there you go. 


***

Content Warning

There's a sex scene in the middle that I had heard about from other people and I could see it coming so I just skipped it. It's immoral and completely unnecessary to the plot. I'm disappointed that Green included that. The romance would have been much better without that stuff.

Also, there's pervasive language. Only one instance of "strong" language, which is sort of understandable because it's at a really heart wrenching moment. But still, that is also unnecessary and limits the accessibility of the book to those who are willing to wade through the crude language. There are a couple suggestive comments too.

***

In conclusion, would I recommend this book? With the content warning and the depressing factor in mind, probably not. It's a hard decision to make though because it's so well-written and there are so many beautiful moments in it and a genuinely stunning passage about true love. 

Am I glad I read it? I learned a lot from it, some of which I listed in my review and some of which I didn't. So yes, I think I am glad.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'll go read some C.S. Lewis to cheer myself up.

Have you read The Fault in Our Stars? If so, what did you think? Do you have a favorite Young Adult book (if you dare to wade into the genre at all)?




Monday, December 19, 2016

Shoveling the Deck: A Poem

Snowflakes whirl
Like planes
Shot down.

The crisp air bites against my hands
Like a dog
Insane.

I scrape snow off wood.
Endless.
Repetitive.
Pointless.

My music envelops my mind
So I don't have to think
And as the pallid sky darkens
And the light begins to shrink
I see a speck.

A flashlight under the scraggly oak,
Careless contraband cast away
By the child whom adults still envy
Because he knows how to play.

Later its light the greater shines,
And it sparkles with gleeful happenstance,
Dispersing the dark in tiny lines.

Planes go down
But they win the fight.

Creatures chew
But they dare not bite.

The darkness grows
But it reveals the light.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

What Happens When I Watch TV and Eat Chocolate at a Late Hour and then Blog



Sometimes life hurts.

I was just thinking about that after having a fun family movie night watching Arthur Christmas (for those who haven't seen it, watch it right now; it's adorable), then deciding to continue our healthy tv streak by watching an episode of Monk with my mom.

It started out weird. And cute. And funny, even funnier than most Monk episodes. But then disaster struck and it was just so emotionally heart wrenching that Mom and I got up when it was over agreeing "Well, that was horrible."

That's kind of a ridiculous example of life problems, but you know what I mean, right? There are those fun outings with friends where something really awkward happens, or someone gets sick, or people are dealing with problems at home so they just don't seem themselves anymore.

Problems like that, from small to big, don't get media attention. They don't get put in movies, or books. They just crop up in our everyday lives reminding us that life isn't perfect.

But there's something in us that tells us that something's wrong with that, right? We instinctively know that this life must not be all there is. These little nagging imperfections remind us that the momentary pleasures we can get from moment to moment, from laughing with friends to watching tv to just browsing Pinterest, are always mixed with a little bit of grief, a little bit of pain. Nothing ever seems to fulfill us.

That's one of the reasons that I love music so much. It takes me out of myself almost to another world, distracting me from the problems at hand so I can just sort of float and not worry about what's coming next. I'm kind of a chronic worrier--I get nervous about anything from casual social events to teaching piano lessons. Even though I've done those things a million times and nothing that bad has ever happened. So music is an outlet. Whether I'm making it or listening to it, it helps me forget, and reminds me that there is beauty out there. When I get home mentally exhausted from a long day, the first thing I do is turn on some music and just let all the awkwardness and the little problems of the day float away.

Music is kind of like prayer. You can abandon yourself to music the same way you're supposed to abandon yourself to God, when you just sit in his presence and he lets you know that it's going to be all right and that the little problems of life are nothing compared to those little beauties of life that are so easy to ignore sometimes.

So often I forget that God's waiting for us to turn to him. Not so he can take the pain away, but so he can be with us. He can hold us and let us know with little things like the right song at the right time, or the perfect Bible verse, that He's there and He cares.

Life hurts. But God heals.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Moana Review



Maybe I'm biased because I haven't watched many movies lately, but I think Moana is right up there with Meet The Robinsons and The Emperor's New Groove when it comes to freshness and emotional clout.

It definitely isn't the best or most original Disney movie ever made, it's just refreshing to see something with a different setting and plot than usual.

The Story: Moana, destined to be the chief of her island tribe, joins the arrogant demigod Maui on a quest to save the world. They are accompanied by a chicken.

Good or Bad: The story was compelling, and I actually cried towards the beginning (hehe yes, animated movies definitely get to me) which is unusual for me at that stage of a film. So it definitely packs emotional punch, and through the whole story I found myself rooting for Moana and even the annoying Maui. 

The main thing that I liked about the movie was that it just felt different from the other 3D animated Disney movies--Frozen, for example. It's set in a tropical environment, and the main characters aren't the usual unrealistically skinny Disney characters. There's no love interest. The animal sidekicks are occasionally viewed as food. The plot is a quest story rather than a character-driven drama. 

And the animation was amazing. I noticed it especially when water was dripping off of Moana's skin.
It was amazingly realistic and it made me wonder how long it took to create just one scene like that, much less a whole movie.

There are some hilarious lines and genuinely funny slapstick humor sprinkled through the movie, which made it a lot of fun to watch. Also, Moana's parents are alive--what a shock!

Finally, the music. Lin-Manuel Miranda cowrote the music.

I'll say that again: Lin-Manuel Miranda, the same guy who wrote Hamilton, the musical that I've been referencing in pretty much every blog post and conversation, cowrote. That's the main reason that I wanted to see this movie, honestly.

Needless to say, the music was fantastic. At first I had trouble not comparing it to Hamilton's music, but now that I'm listening to it on Spotify I really like it. There are several full-out musical numbers, the best being "Where You Are" and "You're Welcome."Hamilton

For those who like going into detail about such things, the music plays with unusual chord changes, which are some of the things I really like about Hamilton's music. The major songs drop occasionally to minor chords, which adds tension so it doesn't all sound like Muppets music. I'm sure that happens in other Disney music too, but I noticed it particularly in this film.
Definitely on my list of favorite celebrities

 Dad and I are so into Hamilton right now that when we heard Lin-Manuel's voice come in on one of the songs, we looked at each other in the light of the movie screen and grinned. Good times.




Favorite lines:

"If you wear a dress and have an animal sidekick, you're a princess."

"I'm his mom. I don't have to tell him anything."

"Boat snack!"

If you've seen Moana, what did you think of it? Which Disney movie is your favorite?







Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Career Post


Why am I including this Studio C meme in a post about careers, you ask? Well, it's one of the first things that came up when I looked up "studio c careers meme." Also, it illustrates the scary fact that grownups are just larger kids. 

At least that's what I've grown to think about getting older. Heck, I'm two years from technically being a grownup, and I have no more idea of what career I'm going to choose than I had when I was five. Actually I have less of an idea than when I was five, because back then I was very confident that I was going to be a "nun vet." (I wonder if there are actually nuns who are vets. That would be the bomb (or "thebomb.com," as a friend would say).

Are all you high schoolers out there stressing out about careers as much as I am? It's scary because there are so many choices out there, and what I study in college (which is NEXT YEAR, aaaaaaa!) will heavily influence the career path I take. And I have no idea what I want to study in college. 

There's the part of me that just wants a simple piano teaching job, or a job working in a bookstore or library, and then there's the part of me that is like Legolas and Dash and Alexander Hamilton all at
"There are a million things I haven't done, but just you wait..."
the same time, and says "Go get 'em! Impress everyone with your super specific college abilities and change the world! Write day and night like you're running out of time! HISTORY HAS ITS EYES ON YOU," etc.


Does anyone else have that same problem? It just seems like if I don't do something really big and epic like becoming part of the UN then my life will be wasted. Which I know could not be further from the truth; as Gandalf says, 

“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay."

...and there's my internal existential debate of the day. Hope you enjoyed it. Let's move on to potential job choices (arranged in no particular order):

1. Piano teacher

I currently have five piano students. I enjoy some parts of teaching piano and it's very satisfying to see students progress, but it's also pretty stressful and it would be a lot of driving and logistics if I decided to do that full time. 

2. Librarian



Libraries are amazing. The quite atmosphere, the floating dust motes, the books everywhere you look. What is not amazing is all the PR work you have to do as a librarian. It looks like there's a lot of work done organizing activities and such, whereas I would rather just find books for people and talk about books. 

3. Schoolteacher

Schoolteaching like in When Calls the Heart looks pretty cool:


I wouldn't mind wearing outfits like that and falling in love with that guy on the left who is the most amazing guy in the world (which I am fully certified to claim even though I've only seen two episodes of the show).

And it has the same perk of piano teaching: you get to see students progress. And it would be nice to talk about my favorite topics--you guessed it, books. English. That sort of thing. 

But nowadays I feel like it would involve a lot of stress, too: dealing with problem children and the public school mentality that you can't involve morality in the classroom. A private school would be different though, but that brings in a whole slew of other issues such as internal gossip and limited subject opportunities.

4. Psychologist

The subject is interesting...but nope, not doing it.

5. Writer

The profession that probably wins the "most likely to get you broke" award. And I LOVE IT. It's so cool to be able to make money by creating characters and worlds out of your own head and selling them to people so they can experience the same things that you did while writing that story. I'm getting a little taste of this after NaNoWriMo, and I've realized that's one of the most enjoyable things in the world. 

Also, a writer follows in the footsteps of Tolkien and Lewis and Chesterton and all those amazing people. It's super epic. 

The problem with writing is the uncertainty. Am I even good enough to ever get published? What kind of class would I take, because creative writing classes seem to be so subjective? What would I do as a side job, or as a full job if writing didn't work out? 

6. Nun

Which isn't really a job; it's more a vocation. But I've been really considering whether I'm called to enter religious life or not. It's always been an attractive option and when I visited the Nashville Dominicans' convent with some friends about a year ago it was the most peaceful place I'd ever been to, and everyone was so joyful that it was contagious. 

I feel like nuns (or "sisters," in this case, since they're not cloistered) have a stigma attached to them of being boring and grouchy all the time. Some orders might be like that, but the Dominican Sisters and the Sisters of Life that I've met are fantastic and are so in love with God (and with life!) that it's really inspiring and it makes me want to be like that. And they help so many people, too! Dominicans in particular spend their time teaching, which as mentioned before is difficult but helpful for students especially if you can spread joy and peace to them.

So joyful!!!

But that can't really be decided by weighing pros and cons, it's more a matter of prayer and experience. So we'll see what happens. I'll be sure to warn you all before I go off and frolic in a convent.  ;)

7. Owner of a book shop in England

Always an option. My friend and I had a dream a few years ago that I would run the bookshop part and she would run the coffee shop part and we would share a flat. It would be, to quote the ninth Doctor, "Fantastic."

Never mind business expenses, the cost of moving overseas, or the trauma of never seeing friends or family again. Those don't compare with the book shop in England part...right?

8. Journalist

My whole "change the world" alter ego loves this profession. But my actual ego is kind of skeptical: will I ever have enough street smarts to be a good journalist? Will I have to report on boring stuff like veterinary clinic taxes? And will it be worth the pay, because according to my journalism teacher, the typical local newspaper journalist gets paid sometimes less than a McDonald's worker?

I guess you never know until you try. But "trying" means studying it in college, while there are so many other classes I want to study in college to...

***

Anyway, thanks for letting me rant at you about careers. That was fun, and hopefully it created a nice pros and cons sort of thing that I can look back at when I become a janitor for the rest of my life and I can look back at it thinking "Wow, such an ambitious young whippersnapper. I wonder what happened."

But it's the small deeds that make a difference, right? So to all you janitors out there, cheers. We appreciate you.

Are you stressing out about careers too? Do you have any particular ones in mind?